Woe to the Shepherds

A paraphrase of portions of Ezekiel 34:

Woe to those who assume leadership in the church yet fail to serve. You enjoy the privileges and profits of your position, but you fail to care for those under your authority.

The abused you have not protected, you have not listened to or supported them, but with your power you have silenced them and driven them away.

The Lord says, I am against this kind of leadership. I will require leaders to account for those in their care and cause them to cease to profit at the expense of those under their authority. I will rescue the abused from their grip.

The Lord says, I, Myself, will rescue My broken ones. I will bandage the hurt and will heal the abused. I will bring light to corruption in leadership and reveal the malicious and the tyrants.

As one with the responsibility to care for others, why have you put your own interests above the needs of others and cared for yourself at their expense? Why must those in your care suffer from your neglect?

The Lord says, I will expose self-serving leaders and rescue those who have suffered under their authority. Because they have trampled and bullied the broken ones, I will rescue My flock, and they will no more be prey to leaders who do not properly and truly serve.

In the church, where the concepts of shepherds, sheep, and flocks are so frequently used to describe the relationship between leaders and their congregations, it is important that we understand God’s perspective of the responsibility of leadership.

I have found that Ezekiel 34 is often deeply encouraging to those who have been spiritually abused as they realize the Lord’s compassion and concern for the injustice of their situation.

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11 comments

  1. Great post Linda, I think most of the pastors and people I find in leadership in the churches that I have been a part of are at least making an attempt to guide their flock in loving ways. Actually this scripture points us to the reality that Christ is the only Good Shepherd and his promise is that he will provide the direction we need through relationship to guide and rescue us from our darkness and fears, that keep us from experiencing the full life that was intended.

    The problem that I think our modern day pastors deal with is they feel it is their responsibility to show us the HOW to make this work and lead us down a path, I believe back unintentionally into establishing a righteousness of our own. This is done by appealing to our conscience using shame and guilt and fear to get us to do the right thing and to draw near to God. But our conscience is still driven by the fallen mind. Our conscience will judge us and will seek for laws to keep and how well we do the purifying process we try to achieve a good record so that we can stay in favor with God. Our fallen mind needs to be fixed is the problem. It tells us that God is separate from us and we need to do something to fix this.

    The Good Shepherd brings us back into a reality that our fallen mind resists. All men and women are adopted into the family. An incarnation has occurred and the new covenant is this, they will all know me from the least to the greatest. In relationship the Good Shepard is more concerned with the WHY we do the things we do. His promise to us is that perfect love casts out fear. He doesn’t need shame, quilt, or condemnation to achieve his loving care. His care for us is judgments that make things right penetrating our darkness freeing us from captive fears, opening our eyes to truth, freeing us from the bruising that our fears have put upon us.

  2. Great comment Barry. I agree that most pastors are sincerely attempting to lovingly serve their congregations. Ideally, pastors are facilitating rather than mediating their followers’ relationship with The Good Shepherd. Interesting thought in your last paragraph about WHY we do things. I believe the typical understanding of “sin” as particular behaviors misses the actual underlying “sin” that drives unhealthy behaviors.

  3. Airene · · Reply

    I know many who’ve spent their whole lives ‘going to church’ and never learned how to enjoy their own lives or how to pastor their own families. Because, traditionally, it’s been about what goes on behind the four walls of the ‘church’.. church services and church programs and the almighty church pastor and what he says from the almighty church pulpit on top of the almighty church platform/stage.
    Our lives outside ‘church’, especially our homes, were mostly an afterthought. Unless it was about witnessing to a friend, coworker or neighbor in order to ‘get them to church’. I’ve been out of the traditional church system for over 13 years and have never been better in so many ways.. spirit, soul and body. Because the one and only bottom line is a personal, intimate relationship with Father through Christ by Holy Spirit, not all the nonsense we often pile on top of that.
    Seems to me that until the Spirit of Almighty God fills hearts and homes, in a simple, natural, organic way.. moment by moment, day by day.. it’s all pretty meaningless. Once God gets the homes, though, He’s got the world.

    1. Airene,
      At one point, our lives were existed entirely within the Christian bubble. It was the hub of all of our spare time and relationships. Until we stepped away, we could not see how our perspective of life outside of the church was stunted. I believe that church can and should encourage the moment to moment life with God that you describe. Yet too often, the demands of the organization begin consuming the lives of the members.

    2. Fear is the underlying feeling that leads us into sin. Fear leads us into the pain of the fallen mind. When we spin out of control and can’t manage our fear then we miss the mark. Giving law or principles drives us further into our pain and that is often what we get from our pastors. The you ought to know better, the after all I have done for you, the I told you so’s. These things come because they try to bring us back into health by the HOW’S.

      To overcome our pain we often look for love in the wrong places, trying to escape or find something that will medicate our pain. Therefore making poor choices based on the moment of the need. That is the WHY we need to deal with. A cure can not be legislated. To pastor well is to know how to understand the WHY and through love bring us back to health. This is where perfect love helps us cast out fear. Loving others as we have already been loved.

  4. Good stuff Linda. Sadly the rise of tele-pastors has elevated the role of teaching in many churches to dangerous levels. I think that pulpit ministry seduces and attracts the wrong kind of folks to pastoral service.

  5. Bob, it just makes sense that the tele-mega-celeb-pastor whose primary duties are public speaking and organizational management cannot possibly pastorally serve individuals. This kind of pulpit ministry is by nature dangerous because it is removed from relationship with those who listen. Where in the world did we come up with the idea that you can “pastor” and have some type of spiritual leadership over people that you don’t even know?

  6. “Yet too often, the demands of the organization begin consuming the lives of the members”

    I can really relate to that Linda!

    Regarding pulpit ministry, generally speaking, I think that (at least) 25-30% of ‘all’ pastors’ time is spent in the preparation and delivering of sermons. And from what I have seen, it is not usually a good use of their time.

    1. “And from what I have seen, it is not usually a good use of their time.”

      :)

      Someone should invent a church service without sermons.

      1. Or maybe use teaching videos from folks more qualified? Our church does that.

      2. My last pastoral job really opened my eyes to a lot of this. In the 3+ years that I was on staff I never once got another pastor or staff member to make a hospital visit with me. Each time I asked (and I asked a lot) people were too busy with church programs and things like sermon prep. I think that people saw pastoral care and visitation as my job and not theirs. Interesting to note that when I retired they outsourced hospital visitation to the deacons.

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